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Groups working together to save bank

Bunky Butler and Charlie Craig have never let a sticking point gouge their long-standing friendship.
Both were more themselves Friday afternoon as they shared a sense of optimism that Friars Point can prove to Southern Bancorp’s satisfaction that its branch bank should remain open.
“We got what we wanted. Now we have to get our deposits up,” said Craig, who steered the citizens ad hoc committee that gained a six-month extension Tuesday for its Delta Southern branch bank.
Prior to that meeting, the situation appeared to be in Southern Bancorp’s favor to close the branch bank effectively March 31.
Butler, manager of Delta Southern’s Clarksdale branch, was personally glad for the extension.
“We will live up to our agreement,” Butler said. At the end of six months, Southern Bancorp and its Delta Southern subsidiary will reassess the branch bank’s financial portfolio.
After hearing the pleas from the ad hoc panel Tuesday, Phillip Baldwin, the president/CEO of Southern Bancorp, said “We will not close this bank,” as planned.
Tim Morris, one of the area’s many farmers and nephew of long-time Friars Point banker Delores Morganti, symbolically cinched the accord when he walked over and shook hands with Baldwin, then one-by-one shook hands with other bank and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation officials gathered in the Friars Point Middle School gym.
That gesture of goodwill brought applause from the 150 or so townspeople who observed the proceedings.
Coahoma County Sheriff Andrew Thompson, a close ally of U.S. Rep, Bennie Thompson, said Thursday he could not recall a more unified effort by the community.
“We all have our differences, but everyone was together on this issue,” the sheriff said.
The sheriff kept in touch with Congressman Thompson who followed the issue closely and spoke on behalf of the community at the Tuesday hearing.
Charles Harris of Jackson, who serves on the national Board of Directors of The National Community Reinvestment Action Coalition, said he had never witnessed such an event.
As they watched depositors do business in the bank Friday, Craig and Butler said they welcome the continued dialogue which Baldwin will be in charge of throughout the next six months.
The Friars Point Seven, those business leaders who filed a complaint with the FDIC that triggered the hearing, included Craig, Margaret McKee, Fred Chisenhall, Robert Hirsberg, Flo Larson, Charles Fair and Johnny Elmore.
Elmore, mayor pro tem of Friars Point, works for Mississippi Limestone and also owns and operates an automotive body shop.
Craig is a long-time agricultural producer and entomologist. Hirsberg is a third-generation business owner.
Larson has an antique business.
Fair is owner of a grocery/ convenience store.
McKee and Chisenhall are prominent landowners and agribusiness leaders in north Coahoma County.
Morganti has been in banking at Friars Point since the early 1950s.

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